Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

Fan-Girl-Rainbow-Rowell

via Goodreads

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell follows Cath, one-half of a set of identical twins Cath and Wren, through her first year of college. Cath is extremely shy in real life, but in her writing she is daring and outgoing, pushing the boundaries of fantasy and romance. Going to school for the first time without Wren is hard, and so is getting along with her new roommate, but Cath has other things on her mind – namely finishing her wildly popular fan fiction of her and Wren’s favorite book series before the final book comes out, and, of course, boys. Can Magicath write a happily ever after for the characters before the series ends for real, and can she fix the problems in her own life before they get out of control?

After listening to this book and its companion novel, Carry On (which is literally Cath’s fan fiction in an actual book all its own) praised over and over again on every blog and Booktube channel I have come across, I finally broke down and bought myself a copy. Once I picked it up, I think I only put it down in order to eat because it was that good. Now, granted I’m a little biased in my opinion because the story she was fan fictioning was very Harry Potter-esque and also I hugely identify with Cath, but the writing was just so good, and the characters, even the ones Cath writes, are just very realistic and relatable. The book deals with what it’s really like to be a college freshman, but it also encompasses depression, anxiety, broken relationships, near-crippling shyness, the struggle to make new friends, loneliness, and the pressure to figure out who the hell you’re supposed to be. This book had it all, and it hit every point right on the head. It sucked me right in. The second I finished it, I handed it to my mother and demanded that she drop what she was reading and read this. Although she didn’t identify with Cath to the degree that  I did, even she had to admit that she really enjoyed it.

The book bounces and back and forth by chapter between Cath’s life at school and what’s happening to Simon, the main character of her fan fiction. This was the only thing that annoyed me ever so slightly because all of the chapters ended in places where I just wanted to know what happened next and I always had to wait another chapter to find out. That aside, this book was immediately added to my all time favorites list because I just love Cath so so much it almost hurts because of how relatable she is.

HHC Rating: 5 stars

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes, #1) – Brittany Cavallaro

A-Study-In-Charlotte-Brittany-Cavallaro

via Goodreads

This book is a retelling of Sherlock Holmes, except that in this universe both Sherlock Holmes and his author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle are real, and the storyline follows descendants of Holmes and Watson thrown together seemingly by fate at a prestigious school in Connecticut and then framed for murder. Although Charlotte Holmes is the titular sleuth, the main POV is that of Watson, who besides being recruited for a sport at which he is terrible, finds himself shipped across an ocean in an effort by his mother for him to get to know his estranged father and step family.

I saw a book trailer for A Study in Charlotte sometime ago and assumed it was a movie. You can find it here. When I realized it was a novel, I immediately added it to my TBR and eagerly awaited it’s release. Not only did the cover speak to me in a decidedly Nancy Drew kind of way, but the characters seemed interesting and I am a person who always loves a good Sherlock Holmes story.

The novel was gritty and twisting, and in true Sherlock form, much was left unexplained until the big reveal at the end of the book. Although this frustrated me as I read, it was obvious that Cavallaro was attempting to make it recognizable as the formula of all the Holmes stories. Because a lot of details were saved for the reveal and the story was told from Watson’s inexperienced point of view, I had no idea what was going to happen until it did. In this age of technology and surveillance equipment, it seemed odd to me that it took them so long to put all the pieces together, especially when Charlotte had a lot of experience in mystery solving pre-storyline and much of the framework for the case comes from the original Sherlock stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which both Holmes and Watson have read to death. However, the turn of events was original enough to be interesting.

I was feeling rather meh about the quick wrap-up, I’ll be honest. The epilogue, however, provided us with a brief Charlotte POV, which finally had me looking forward to a potential sequel or series and the idea of getting to know Holmes and Watson better as characters as they mature together. I think the storyline could have been a little stronger, but I think the characters will develop themselves further throughout the series, which I believe is going to be a trilogy.

This book is definitely on the upper end of YA. It takes all the dark parts of the Holmes family and fits them onto a teenage girl: Depression, unrequited love,  alcoholism and drug addiction, sociopathic genius, and ever-rising stakes. Add in a rape and a murder and you’ve got enough material to make Charlotte Holmes a tortured creature. Yet she manages to rise above everything that’s happened to her and those around her and focus unwaveringly on the mystery at hand. Author Brittany Cavallaro had a lot of work to do to rein in a character like that, and I think she did a pretty great job.

HHC Rating: 3.5 stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book #2 – The Last of August

TOTY: 24 – Me Doing Me

Here we are again, the beginning of summer. This July I’ll turn 24, and we’ll mark the 2nd anniversary since I began writing here. I’m so proud of all the writing I’ve done here on Curio Street, over at Curio Street Reads (formerly Vinca Books) Highlights and Hot Chocolate, and elsewhere on the internet.

In my first year of writing here, I experienced everything I could. I traveled to Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Both were incredibly amazing. I also held a number of executive positions in the organizations I was a part of in college. I was the Program Director of my campus radio station, President of the newly revamped television production club, and Vice President of Public Relations in our chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. The icing on the cake, though, was graduating Magna Cum Laude last May after 5 years of higher education. I felt happy and fulfilled, ready for anything that was thrown my way.

In my second year, my plan was to step back a little and focus on myself. I had planned to get fit and work on my physical well-being. I did start seeing a dermatologist and addressing my acne problems, but otherwise, I could not have been more wrong about how the year would go. I had assumed I would get a grown up job and the grown-up apartment and life that came with it. Instead, I am working part-time and living with one of my friends. I haven’t run above 6 times this year, and my posture is still terrible. Yet in not fulfilling the goals I set, I have discovered SO MUCH about myself.

I said that this year wasn’t going to be focused on self-discovery, but in a sense it was. I went out on a limb to apply for a job in retail that I really had no experience doing, and I got it. Now I’m working in a bridal shop with some of the loveliest people. Other highlights of the year included my parents and my aunt and uncle buying a lake house together in Maine, and that same aunt and uncle welcoming my newest baby cousin, 2 months old at the end of last month. I am in the midst of helping two of my closest friends prepare for their nuptials, and I am beyond proud to get to stand up with them on their special days. In the last month alone, I got my ears pierced for the first time and my first tattoo. Sure, I had some sad and frustrating moments over the course of the year, but I feel a sense of self now that I didn’t have before. I had the outward confidence and leadership skills, but I lacked the self-awareness and understanding to believe in myself and to have the courage to stand up for my dreams, however unattainable they seem to everyone else.

In my third year, I will surely continue applying to full-time jobs, but I will do so with a significantly larger amount of assuredness that I know what I’m getting myself into and that I am prepared for it. I will reach farther, for jobs that interest me and will challenge me. I will apply to something I know I can do even if I don’t have all of the outlined qualifications because I believe in myself and in my ability to learn.

In my third year, I want to focus on writing. I am going to write every day. Even if it is for 15 minutes in my diary, I am going to write. I am going to write posts for Curio Street and book reviews for Curio Street Reads. I am going to write all of the books and worlds that are in my head, I am going to write about anything and everything that is affecting my life or just making a brief appearance in it. And I am going to attempt to publish at least some of those writings somewhere people will see them. Not just here on Curio Street, but out there in the expanse of space that is the internet and even print media.

In my third year, I am going to apply to graduate school. I want to get my master’s degree in publishing and writing. It’s something I’ve always felt I wanted to do, but I didn’t know how to put it into words or go about it. I have my bachelor’s in communications, but the more I learn about society and how we communicate, the more I yearn for the simple days when long form writing was the main form of communication. The more I read on the internet, the more I want to contribute to it. I don’t want to simply be a consumer. I want to be a part of the product. I am no longer happy as a bystander. I need to be a participant.

I have no way of knowing what the next year holds, but these are the things I think I need to do to be an even better version of myself. Never stop growing, never stop learning, never stop creating. This next year is about ME, doing ME. I am digging deep and letting my crazy writer flag fly for the world to see. Because only by doing so can I grow into the woman I know I am destined to become.

Here’s to year 24,

Amanda

A Good Man Gone (Mercy Watts Mysteries, #1) – A.W. Hartoin


Source: Goodreads 

Mercy Watts is a part-time nurse. She works through an agency that places her in hospitals around St. Louis, Missouri, that are short staffed or overloaded with patients. But when she’s not at work, she’s often getting sucked into odd jobs for her dad, a highly decorated and now retired St. Louis PD detective. Mercy couldn’t care less about her dad’s new PI service until her parents go on vacation and her dad’s former partner dies under mysterious circumstances. Now it’s left to Mercy to uncover the truth before it’s too late.

A Good Man Gone is the first book in the Mercy Watts Mysteries series. It follows Mercy around her life as she tries to use the investigative skills she’s picked up from watching her father work over the years to track down killers. Unlike most cozy mysteries, this series boasts a fairly large cast. Besides Mercy and her parents, there are her dad’s three friends (two now since one is the victim), her mother’s best friend, Mercy’s Aunt, her two godmothers, her boyfriend, and her ‘cousin’ (by marriage, not by blood) Chuck, who’s basically the son her father never had. In addition to these 11 ‘regulars’, you also meet various other police detectives and people around St. Louis that Mercy deals with during her investigations.

The story takes place in the Midwest, and unlike most cozy mysteries, actually, includes quite a bit of out-of-town travel. The characters are all complex and quirky in their own ways and it lends well to the storyline. There’s more than just murder and romance going on in this series, and that really makes me interested in continuing reading it despite the rather confusing cover and somewhat slow beginning. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes their mysteries with a side of colorful characters.

HHC Rating: 4.5 stars

Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job. Kill It in Your Career. Rock Social Media. – Aliza Licht

Source: Goodreads

Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht is part memoir, part advice book, and part much-needed kick in the rear end. Aliza, formerly known as DKNYPRGIRL across social media, was the Senior Vice President of Global Communications for Donna Karan International. After rising to success on Twitter and inspiring other brands to place Public Relations on the front lines, Aliza answered the many inquiries for advice from young Fashion and PR professionals and students with this book, which she terms a sort of written mentorship.

Throughout its pages are sprinkled stories from her life, ranging from early career woes to the challenges of anonymous stardom. Her advice is great, and the flow of the book is mostly fantastic, but the formatting could use some work. By the end I was growing increasingly annoyed by the interruption of a perfectly good paragraph by an “insider tip” that was usually pretty common sense, yet made to feel so secret that it might as well be the identity of Gossip Girl.

Occasionally, Licht would go on a rant (something that, IMO, should be saved for opinion columns and reviews, not used in memoirs or advice books, although I can understand the urge.) and it would feel like she was yelling at the reader for something they hadn’t done, but that there was a small chance they might do in the future. I found myself feeling slightly upset and bewildered after these parts and having to put the book down in order to remind myself that I hadn’t done whatever it was before I was able to pick the book back up and try to get back into it.

Although I know Licht was just trying to be thorough and professional and when she announced in the beginning that she would be altering names and even genders of people she would refer to so that their identities would say secret and the reader, whether they be a man or a woman, would feel equally represented, the whole concept rang through my head like a song on replay whenever I was reading the book and ended up making it feel somewhat contrived and slightly less than genuine.

However, the overall tone of the book was pretty good, and it carried a lot of solid advice for only 288 pages. I think it was a bit of a cautious beginning for Licht in the literary world, but I get the feeling that she will probably publish more, and that she will improve with each publication. I definitely enjoy her social media presence, sass and all, and look forward to reading anything else she decides to print. I would recommend the book in its entirety to anyone looking for advice on a career in social media, fashion, or PR specifically, and the resume section to every person I have ever met or will meet in the future.

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars

Piercings and Tattoos, Oh My!

Tattoo_PineTree

 

The last six months have simply flown by. We got little dustings of snow here and there, but the only blizzard we got was back in January or February, when Big Red and I got buried under 30″ of the stuff. It has rained a lot this spring, however, and maybe that makes up for it. I’ve been working pretty steadily, and helping Big Red and The Nurse plan their weddings. It’s a lot of fun, actually. The month of May, however, has been particularly interesting in the general course of my life.

For The Nurse’s wedding, all the bridesmaids are doing matching jewelry. She and I were discussing this at the end of April, and I bought up the point to her that I didn’t have pierced ears. I wasn’t opposed to them, I said, but I had never had a real reason to have them. Why should I pierce my ears unless I have a reason? I would simply be creating another reason for me to spend money. A wedding though, THAT is reason. So I told her that so long as she gave me about 2-3 months of notice, I would get them done so I could match the rest of the bridesmaids, etc. She let me know the last week of April, and I enlisted Big Red’s help to find a place to get them done. I don’t even notice I have them unless my hair or my shirt gets caught on them. So far they’re fine, and I haven’t had any issues. I do the whole alcohol swab thing every morning and night and today marks a month since I got them done.

My tattoo (seen above) is an entirely different story. Maybe it SEEMS as though I got the ear piercings and went crazy and decided to get a tattoo as well. Not true. I’ve always planned to get a tattoo, but I could never decide on one. there are many things I love, but almost none of them that I would put permanently on my body. About two years ago, one of my sisters asked my cousin to design a tattoo for her: a pine tree with a cross inside of it. My sister never ended up getting it, but my cousin decided that she really liked the pine tree as a symbol of our family (our last name is Woods after all), and got a small pine tree tattooed on her ankle. As soon as I saw it, I knew that was what I wanted. Still, I spent the last TWO YEARS mulling it over. My cousin was supposed to go with me to get it at the end of last summer, but she left for school in Montana before we could get to it. When I found out that she was home for Memorial Day weekend, I informed her that it was time, and we drove out to Silk City Tattoo in Hawthorne, NJ, where she got her first tattoo, to get my pine tree. Mine ended up being more intricate and larger than hers, but there is not a single thing I would change about it. The guys at the parlor were super nice to us, even after they found out it was my first tattoo. There was no teasing, and they made it as painless as possible (I would equate the pain level to scraping your foot on the concrete sidewalk, except for a prolonged period of time, so like a 2-3/10).

Sure, it’s in a place that can only be covered by pants, or tights, or knee socks, but besides being one of the least painful places to get a tattoo and the exact location of my cousin’s, I wanted it to to be somewhere where I could see it every day. I didn’t see the point in getting something meaningful if I was just going to forget it was there. I have no idea how having my tattoo will affect my future in terms of employment, but I do know that it hasn’t affected my current situation at the bridal shop (where many of my coworkers have multiple tattoos).

The effect on my family has been interesting. My siblings and my parents think it’s a little on the large side, being nearly 5″ tall from trunk to loftiest branches, but in proportion to my extra long legs, it doesn’t seem that big. My paternal grandparents, who aren’t surprised by anything anymore after raising 8 children and 20 grandchildren, really like it. My coworkers love it. Other reactions have been mixed, but it hasn’t fazed me so far. I expected many of the reactions I got, and the majority of them were pleasantly surprising.

Will I ever get another tattoo or piercing? Probably not. I have no reason to get any other piercings, and I’m not really interested in piercing anything else, like my lip, eyebrow, belly button, or cartilage, and see no reason to get multiple holes in my ears, either. Tattoo-wise, I can’t say. I may eventually find a quote or other symbol that I want, but I don’t see it as very likely.

Let me know your thoughts on piercings and tattoos on Twitter!

Until next time,

Amanda